Historic Cooktown became a thriving port during the gold rush era after it was discovered by Captain James Cook when the HMS Endeavour hit a reef in 1770. Hardened, pioneering characters and years of geographic isolation have added to the frontier town’s unique character which continues to charm adventurers today.
Indigenous, European and Chinese history come together in this once-bustling town where there is still plenty of evidence of Cooktown’s prosperity from the gold mining days. Wide streets with impressive handmade stone guttering, quaint buildings that were once the hub of commercial activity, and graceful, well-preserved Queenslander architecture give a hint of days gone by.
Monuments and museums with carefully preserved relics are reminders of the town’s rich history, while the well-maintained cemetery bears testament to the hardships endured more than a century ago. History is even evident in Cooktown’s Botanic Gardens which were gazetted in 1878 and feature 62 hectares of native and exotic plants.
Indigenous culture thrives in this part of Tropical North Queensland. Join an Aboriginal family for a yarn and a meal at their home, tour the arts and cultural centre at a nearby Indigenous community or take a guided tour of the rock art sites high in the hills.
Each June, the landing of Captain Cook and his interaction with the Indigenous Guugu Yimithirr people is marked with a re-enactment ceremony as part of the three-day Cooktown Discovery Festival.
It’s bitumen all the way if you travel the 330 kilometres inland along the Mulligan Highway from Cairns, or take a Four Wheel Drive for a fun adventure along the coastal route crossing rivers and creeks through World Heritage-listed rainforest and join the highway at the mysterious pile of rocks known as Black Mountain.
Cooktown has a regional airport with regular flights and a range of accommodation from camping to four-star hotels.